Tonight’s post on calculating Military Pay in Family Law was written by our Savannah family law attorney, Professor David Purvis.
Being located in Savannah with our large military presence, many of the cases I handle involve one or both spouses who are active duty members of our military. From an academic perspective, I enjoy handling cases involving active-duty military as there are different statutes and rules at play than in civilian-only cases. From a patriotic standpoint, I feel like our military members deserve an extraordinary level of respect and care when going through a family law matter. These soldiers deal with some very stressful situations overseas; if I can make their domestic matter a bit less stressful, then all the better. I feel this way whether I represent the active duty spouse or the civilian spouse.
Georgia has a very specific statute on calculating military pay for purposes of determining child and spousal support. The biggest aspect of this statute is how Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) is calculated. In Georgia, we are supposed to use the non-locality without dependent rate for the soldier’s BAH rate for family law purposes. The reason is simple: The BAH that is listed on the Leave and Earnings Statement (LES) changes based on the cost of living where the soldier lives. BAH for an E-5 pay grade at Fort Stewart is going to be far less than that same E-5 stationed in Paris, France, for example. If child support is determined based on the BAH as it shows on the LES (the adjusted-for-cost-of-living amount) and that soldier has a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) to a base where the cost of living is lower than it is in Savannah, the soldier’s BAH will decrease, but the child support obligation remains the same. This can have devastating financial consequences for the soldier.
I had a trial recently in which I represented the civilian parent against an active-duty member parent. The parties were required to submit financial affidavits to the court showing their monthly income and expenses. The soldier’s affidavit, uncorrected by his own attorney, reflected the gross pay of his LES. His attorney had included the BAH reflecting the cost of living adjustment as well as special pay which is also generally excluded for domestic relations cases.
I started my cross examination of the soldier by walking through how this calculation was incorrect. It became clear rather quickly that I was the teacher in that courtroom and that my client and I were the ones seeking the truth, even if it meant the soldier’s pay would be less for child support purposes.
It was simply the right thing to do. It was also the strategically intelligent thing to do.
The soldier appreciated my efforts. The Judge understood our blatant honesty. And my client prevailed.
David not only is the primary attorney on all of our divorce and family law cases in Savannah, he is also the family law professor for the Savannah College of Law.